Murray Edwards announced today (3rd October), in an email to their student body, that potential applications no longer have to be legally recognised as female to apply. Previously, this was a stipulation of anyone applying to the college.
The policy now states the college will consider any student who, at the point of application (or requesting a transfer to the college) “Identifies as female and, where they have been identified as male at birth, has taken steps to live in the female gender”. The college’s single-sex status is not affected by the change.
Dame Barbara Stocking, President of Murray Edwards commented:
“We are a College that is open to all outstanding young women and so it is absolutely right, both legally and within our set of values, for anyone who identifies as female to be able to apply to study with us.”
The JCR have also released a statement, which reads:
“The JCR are delighted with the announcement of this change to the policy on the admission of transgender women. Murray Edwards is a college which focuses on the education of women in a world where women still often experience environments where their achievements are not recognised or their voice is not heard. It is absolutely right that all women should be able to apply to study at Murray Edwards and benefit from the supportive environment it fosters, regardless of whether they were assigned male or female at birth.”
The Women’s Officer added:
“Requiring transgender women to have their gender legally recognised under the Gender Recognition Act is an inadequate policy which does not ensure the equal treatment of transgender women at the point of admission. The Gender Recognition Act requires individuals to be 18 before their gender is legally recognised. This requirement cuts out a huge portion of applicants who are 17 at the time they apply to university. The stipulation that individuals must have ‘lived in the acquired gender for two years’ further excludes younger transgender women who are unlikely to be judged in the eyes of the Gender Recognition Panel to have met these requirements. The deficiencies of the Act mean that in practice many transgender people do not have their gender legally recognised. We are thrilled with the change of policy and that the college are continuing to strive to create an environment which welcomes and celebrates all women.”
Germaine Greer, a renowned feminist and former lecturer at Newnham College, whose views on transwomen have repeatedly been the subject of controversy, has publicly attacked Murray Edwards College concerning their recent decision to allow any self-identifying woman to be eligible to apply to the college. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Greer said:
“It’s a silly situation, and I’m sure that Murray Edwards will have their own reasons. But it’s a difficult relationship, having a transgender person in an all-female environment.”
“If [Murray Edwards] really don’t believe that gender is binary, then they really shouldn’t be a single sex college. Their position is ridiculous. The only sane thing for them to do is to cease discriminating on the basis of assigned gender of any kind.”
Greer has previously spoken out against “man’s delusion that he is female”, claiming that transgender women are “some kind of ghastly parody”. She also denies the existence of transphobia.
The college has since defended its decision, saying that the move does not change its single-sex status and stressing that the decision reflects an adaptation to the changing definitions of ‘woman’. Juliet Foster, a senior tutor at Murray Edwards, said: “Our position is very clear: we want to be open to all outstanding young women, and we felt that society is changing and there is greater understanding of the complexities surrounding gender.”
“We felt [the decision] was therefore in line with our values to accept all women, including transgender people who identify as female.”
Newnham and Lucy Cavendish still require transgender women to have their gender legally recognised as female to apply. CUSU’s Women’s’ Campaign are pressuring for a similar change to be made to their Transgender Policy.